This time last year I had the honor of preaching Joyce Knodell’s funeral. She was my mother-in-law. We’ve all heard lots of mother-in-law jokes. None of them applied to her. She was an encourager and a prayer-warrior. I entitled the message “An Ordinary Life Lived to the Glory of God.” I meant the descriptor “ordinary” as a high compliment. Last year Tony Merida and Michael Horton both published books that had the same title—Ordinary. Both books argue the same point: “The kingdom of God isn’t coming with light shows, and shock and awe, but with lowly acts of service. I want to push back against sensationalism and “rock star Christianity,” and help people understand that they can make a powerful impact by practicing ordinary Christianity.”—Tony Merida,15. In many ways, Joyce’s life exemplified the theme of both books: God is glorified by a steadfast life. Jesus established the Church with ordinary ordinances—water for baptism; bread and wine for the Lord’s Supper. There’s perhaps no experience so ordinary and common as eating a meal, yet the Apostle Paul says “whether we eat or drink, do all to the glory of God.” Here are three thoughts about the ordinary Christian life:
Ordinary is not synonymous with comfortable.
One great challenge of ordinary existence is the “every-dayness of life.” Tish Warren spent her college years as a political activist and then served for ten years as a missionary to Africa. She married after returning to finish school. She writes: “Now, I’m a thirty-something with two kids living a more or less ordinary life. And what I’m slowly realizing is that, for me, being in the house all day with a baby and a two-year-old is a lot more scary and a lot harder than being in a war-torn African village. What I need courage for is the ordinary, the daily every-dayness of life. Caring for a homeless kid is a lot more thrilling to me than listening well to the people in my home. Giving away clothes and seeking out edgy Christian communities requires less of me than being kind to my husband on an average Wednesday morning or calling my mother back when I don’t feel like it.” (Horton, 15)
Ordinary is not synonymous with mediocre.
We are called to live lives of excellence. Joyce lived the ordinary disciplines of the Christian life with excellence, to the glory of God. She did the everyday tasks, day in and day out, with remarkable steadfastness. By the way, excellence is not perfectionism. Perfectionism seeks the approval of others; excellence desires simply to serve well.
The ordinary Christian life infuses daily tasks with grace.
It lives out the mundane matters in the light of eternity and handles the circumstances of life with a Spirit-controlled temperament. Under the heading “Everyone wants a revolution. No one wants to do the dishes,” Tish Warren writes: “But I’ve come to the point where I’m not sure anymore just what God counts as radical. And I suspect that for me, getting up and doing the dishes when I’m short on sleep and patience is far more costly and necessitates more of a revolution in my heart than some of the more outwardly risky ways I’ve lived in the past. And so this is what I need now: the courage to face an ordinary day — an afternoon with a colicky baby where I’m probably going to snap at my two-year old and get annoyed with my noisy neighbor — without despair, the bravery it takes to believe that a small life is still a meaningful life, and the grace to know that even when I’ve done nothing that is powerful or bold or even interesting that the Lord notices me and is fond of me and that that is enough.” (Horton, 20)
Joyce demonstrated her faith by her faithfulness. She never desired the limelight; she never needed applause. Her service was not dependent upon public approval. Ordinary Christians are similar to the vital organs of the body: essential, yet when functioning normally they often go unnoticed by us. Yet there is One Who does take note, and His opinion is the only one that really matters.